Google to overhaul policies to guarantee brand safety

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 22 March 2017
Google: Mountain View, Califonia. headquarters

Google is promising better controls for advertisers in an overhaul of its advertising policies in response to a growing boycott of the company’s platforms from leading brands, advertisers and holding groups, including Havas, The Guardian and McDonald’s.

In a blogpost, Google’s chief business officer Philipp Schindler apologised for the number of breaches of brand safety.

“We have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear, and in the vast majority of cases, our policies and tools work as intended. But at times we don’t get it right.

“Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologise.”

The apology follows various companies discovering their advertising spend was being used to place adverts next to YouTube videos that featured ISIS, white supremacist and pornographic content.

Local agencies told AdNews they don't have plans to follow Havas' lead at this stage but all are watching closely.

In response, Schindler has promised a three-tier overhaul of Google’s advertising policies, both on YouTube and on the company’s wider ad products.

Firstly, Google is tightening its policies around what can live on its platforms and what content can host advertising. The company is also ensuring that those who impersonate other channels can’t host advertising.

“Starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content,” Schindler says. 

Schindler says YouTube is “taking a hard look” at existing community guidelines to see if any content is allowed on the platform that shouldn’t be, though no action is promised.

Secondly, advertisers are given greater control over where their money goes with new tools available to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their campaigns at once, as well as more fine-tuned controls for when advertisers need specific say over where their ads appear.

Thirdly, Schindler says that advertisers and agencies will be offered “more transparency and visibility on where their ads are running”.

“We believe the combination of these new policies and controls will significantly strengthen our ability to help advertisers reach audiences at scale, while respecting their values,” Schindler says.

These tools will roll out over the next couple of weeks. It will hire “significant numbers of people” to develop them. All the brand safety tools will be powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

"In the end, there’s nothing more important to Google than the trust we’ve built amongst our users, advertisers, creators and publishers. Brand safety is an ongoing commitment for us, and we’ll continue to listen to your feedback," Schindler says.

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